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CES 2019: Novelty Shop or Predictor of the Future?

  • - LiveRamp
  • 4 min read

[Editor’s note: This article has been reposted from LinkedIn with permission. View the original article here.]

Just back from CES, I’m left with two curious thoughts about the show.

  1. Not much “there, there” this year.  Of course, there was an assortment of novelties (AI-powered bread maker, 3D chocolate printers) and some stunning digital screen experiences that could change the OOH digital experience for the next decade (LG’s massive curved screens). But, in-between? Not a lot.
  2. The show featured “incremental change.”  After 15 years of coming to CES, I wonder if the floor show is—in the end—just a showcase for innovative eye candy that never makes the leap into successful, profitable commercial products. And, in many ways, it’s become a platform for networking and marketing, while platforms and publishers make it more about IP than products and technology.

With each passing CES, the feeling that we’re living in the second world increases. No longer is CES predominantly a launch pad for new products; instead, it’s one continuous stream of products from 2018 leading to 2019.

And, there is a tremendous amount of copycatting: TVs as furniture in the home (everyone doing it), autonomous driving cars (all the big manufacturers turning CES into more of an auto show than ever before), cars as outdoor billboards from eight different suppliers alone in the Tech East Center (using both windshields and passenger windows as screens).

So, it makes you wonder: where’s all the promise of the future? Has CES become just a series of small wonders and moon shots never really expected to be successful in the marketplace? CNET can run the numbers, but I believe that less than 10%, possibly closer to 5%, of all the CES products displayed over the past 15 years that came to market have realized sustained success and profitability. When you think about how many people come to CES to walk the floor and how many partners in the ecosystem show up to leverage the platform, that’s a stunningly low potential effectiveness / success rate.

Unbelievably, for all the buzz about 5G this year, there were few compelling floor demos and experiences featuring 5G-powered mobile and IoT devices. Everyone had shiny digital displays touting 5G but not a single big exhibitor did the dumb simple thing: demonstrate how fast 5G is versus 4G LTE. Big outage as far as I’m concerned. 5G’s benefit is not the tech: it’s the speed it enables—faster downloads, faster ad load delivery, sharper imagery, etc. People need to see that to be compelled to upgrade. Huge miss.

Some of the things I did like at CES:

  • Google everywhere. Not even up for debate, Google has elevated its game in the smart connected home, life, and car sectors. They displayed an impressive list of products and partnerships. In a bold move, they built a pop-up convention center in the middle of a CES parking lot and erected a high-definition 8K screen that was absolutely stunning in the bright Las Vegas sunshine. Clout, imagination, and $$.
  • LG won the day vs. Samsung. As a Samsung consumer, partner, and friend, I hate to admit it (and, I have five Samsung 4K TVs and a host of other products, so I’m committed). However, LG’s stunning curved screen showing life like ocean waves, star-gazing and other “real life” content, and other screen concepts and products they displayed were exceptional. For instance, their rolling TV screen (it retracts into a self-contained furniture box) is really slick, and probably something many people will buy. It elevates the device to modern art that seems to work with elegance and grace. And for both LG and Samsung, the new world is now 8K. The picture quality is truly special.
  • 3D / dimensional and contextual OOH screens.  Absolutely fascinating. Engineers at Intel, LG, LTC, and others are rethinking and evolving everything about screens: size, shape, size of pixels, density, color, and format. The OOH digital world is set for significant game-changing when, or if, some of what I saw at CES comes to market. If there was one clear winner as a category this year, it was OOH digital experiences: true reinvention.
  • Best of the “I can, so I will build it” products. 3D chocolate printers and AI bread machines took the prize. The 3D printing category has really come a long way in a short time frame. The AI bread was pretty good, but I feel bad for the Pillsbury Dough Boy. He’s out of work.
  • The next generation of Google Glasses are here. There were stunning products by several manufacturers. I also saw a lot of touch and haptic products that are being directed by brain waves as opposed to touch screen. The world of haptic technology is taking off where it gives you the ability to feel the difference between cotton, silk, or linen. Pretty cool stuff.

Want to learn more about trends you can put into practice? Register for RampUp 2019!